Tag Archives: linguistic notes

Feeling galactic

(Not) buying things
I went to a bike auction held by Deutsche Bahn last Thursday. I didn’t bid on any bikes, partly because it was hard to see properly over the assembled throng, and partly because although I know the numbers in German, I’m unconvinced that I’ll comprehend finer points such as “be warned, this thing is a death-trap and will require numerous repairs before you get on it”. The auction was, however, an entertaining experience, especially when they brought out a rubbish bike that everybody laughed at and a woman on the other side of the crowd bid €11 for it, eliciting a collective ooooh from around a hundred people as we strained to see who wanted it.

I also went to the Mauerpark flea market for the first time. The thing is, I am more than a cheapskate: I just kind of don’t buy stuff, so I wasn’t really that excited. Still though, it was a nice day and it was good to see where the market takes place, and plus I did make a couple of purchases after all: za’atar, which I haven’t found anywhere else yet, and a set of kitchen knives as a joint flatwarming present from myself and the Berlin Welcoming Committee to a couple who have finally found a home.

Purposely non-specific reference to angst
Some Stuff occurred last week that made me feel Crappy, which is sort of ongoing, although I’m aware that in the grand scheme of things it’s not really a big deal. The best thing about said Stuff is that it is Scotland-based, and being physically distant from it helps quite a bit. Besides that, however, here are my amazing techniques for dealing with Stuff:

  1. Okay, so I may be unable to grow a thicker skin. But the correct response to this is to not beat myself up for failure to grow a thicker skin.
  2. Consideration of where this fits in with regard to my swimming pool. Namely: everything else is cool except for abovementioned Stuff, which I have already acknowledged is not really a big deal.
  3. In ten years’ time, who’s going to care? This outlook has never failed me yet. In, let’s say for the sake of longevity, two months’ time, maximum, I’m probably not going to care about the Stuff of late.
  4. Identify worst case scenario and find solution to it. In this case, the worst case scenario might be that everyone in Scotland hates me. This is a brilliant worst case scenario, because it’s beyond overblown and exaggerates the hell out of the Stuff that’s caused me to angst in the first place. The solution, anyway, would be to just never bother returning to Scotland, which sounds fine to me. See? Problem solved.

Linguistic notes
I am unwilling to begin any communication with the opener Sprechen Sie Englisch? My German may be rubbish, but interpretive dance served me well in Japan and it will suffice here too if needs be. I can usually guess what’s going on by context, and I like when the man in the Spätkauf does the actions to mime “Would you like a bag?”

Also, there is a German phrasebook sitting on my desk and I’ve never yet thought to take it out with me. I love, though, that it has a whole section labelled Dating & Romance. (It ends with: I have never loved you; You’d better go now; I don’t ever want to see you again; Piss off!) It also lists ‘to make a pass at someone’ under Negative Feelings, and ‘galactic’ under Positive Feelings.

Quick rundown of other stuff
Made it out on May Day after all; hosted numerous visitors from Edinburgh; was taught (for the third time) how to cook tortilla; attended two flatwarmings on the same day; was given a free travel pass for the month of May; got drunk for the first time since moving here, which was really Sandra’s influence; spent Saturday night with the Berlin Welcoming Committee watching episodes of Press Gang on YouTube; saw the Frida Kahlo exhibition; had dinner with various lovely people; met more people who actually live here; and realised that my German is not in fact completely useless, as my visitors knew less than I do and I was able to assist to some extent.

Looking to the future
It’s kind of up in the air, and rightly so because it’s too soon for me to make any concrete decisions, but I am very much liking the prospect of not moving back to Edinburgh after the summer, whether I remain in Berlin or not. Again, I’m glad to have joined the redundancy club over a year ago, without which I would not now be living here or looking at multiple possibilities.


Everything you believe is a lie

It’s four weeks today since I moved to Berlin. It’s also May Day, but I have no-one to go to the riots with. I was in Friedrichshain last night, where gutterpunks roamed drunk and vanloads of police made their presence known. There was a feeling in the air, a tension that was more than a normal Friday night. People come from all over Germany to demonstrate on May Day, and police come from all over Germany to deal with it. This is the striving-to-be-nonpartisan summary, anyway; other summaries vary from “nobody cares about politics and they just want to smash things” to “everything was peaceful until those pesky cops showed up”. You know the drill.

Nobody I know is taking part in the festivities; everyone seems to have been devising complex strategies to avoid the hell out of the action. I’ve been trying to filter the scare stories and figure out whether it’s really going to be the apocalypse that everyone’s predicted (every year, there’s some soundbite about expecting “the worst violence in years”). I can’t really picture myself haplessly stumbling into the middle of a stand-off, anyway, but I guess I’m sitting this one out simply due to lack of any plans. I’m generally too jaded to go to demonstrations these days anyway – I know, I know, bad activist etc – but there’s an added thing here about being new in town and not being sure what’s going on, not to mention not speaking the language. Still, I feel like a bit of a copout. So to speak.

Travel news
I went back to Belfast for five days. It would’ve been a week only the volcano got in the way. This was fine by me; having arrived in Berlin such a short time ago, I was wondering what possessed me to book a whole week in Ireland. I cheered when I saw my initial flight had been cancelled. Anyway, being back in Belfast is always kind of weird for me and so it was kind of weird this time too. It’s not to say I didn’t have a nice time, it’s just that it was weird also. I am only mentioning it here for the sake of reporting that I’ve been away.

Gig news
On Thursday night I went to Schokoladen to see The Burning Hell from Canada. Hell yeah! I didn’t know what to expect beforehand, but really enjoyed the gig, as did my guests. I prefer to avoid writing about music for the most part, due to general cluelessness, but there is a man with a beard and a ukulele and entertaining lyrics and I think you should check them out. Also my new friend Ariel is playing clarinet with them on their European tour (and saxophone before it broke). And she is super. So.

Culinary notes

  • This is the sort of thing I have for breakfast/brunch each day.

    Stuffed vine leaves, sundried tomatoes with garlic, halloumi cheese, fried aubergine.
  • Also simits. Bread is generally more exciting over here than it is in the UK, with the exception of cranberry & rosemary bread, an occasional treat that I miss.

Goddamn writer’s block
You may have noticed that I am totally failing to update my other blog. This is in part due to deadlines and travel, which have also gotten in the way of this one, although clearly not to the same extent. And it is in part due to standard-grade writer’s block, whereby I am still searching for the right way to tell the next story; when this happens I generally just sit back and wait for inspiration to come (or rush something through and then resent it because I don’t like the way it was written). But I am beginning to wonder how long I am going to continue not being in the right headspace for it. And then I wonder whether that’s because I’m in a new relationship and don’t feel like analysing previous encounters right now? I do not know. I am just saying. I’m not actually planning to abandon the project or anything; who knows, maybe I will wake up tomorrow and the next post will write itself.

Speaking of waking up
I woke up in a panic yesterday morning, heart thumping, because I dreamed I missed the boarding call for a flight to Amsterdam because I was busy cooking a vegetarian sausage.

A couple of turns of phrase

  • When I was ten I went to visit this rich kid who I thought I was maybe going to be friends with. (This did not turn out to be the case.) I came home and reported to my mother: they had this big house, and a tennis court, and all these animals, and all this land. I added that the rich kid explained that they didn’t have a swimming pool because of the cost of heating it.

    Well, said my mother wryly. That’s a problem we don’t have.

    Lately I’ve taken to complaining that I can’t afford to heat my swimming pool, any time I catch myself whining about anything that isn’t, in the grand scheme of things, a big deal. See: having an unstable income yet still a fair way to fall before I wind up in desperate poverty; not having a clue where my life is going yet having the luxury of living rent-free in Berlin for the summer; etc.

  • On a similar note: IT’S LIKE LIVING IN RUSSIA. Which is what my brother informed me when he sent my Polish books and noted that the post office had no padded bags of any size. Yes. EXACTLY like living in Russia.

T- 6

So here are a few things I’m planning to do while I adjust to living in a much bigger city in which I know maybe half a dozen people:

  • Write stuff. I mean, I don’t want to get too specific about this, because maybe I’ll get sidetracked and write something quite different to the projects I currently have in mind. But as long as I’ve written a decent amount of decent material by the end of it, that’s fine. I’ll be working remotely in a tiny elite writers’ group with a good friend of mine, checking in with her every week or so.
  • Keep on learning Polish. I’m hoping that the fact I’ll have very few possessions with me will help me to actually devote time to it, rather than finding a gazillion other things to do first. I mean, to be perfectly honest, the Polish is sort of a lost cause, because it doesn’t matter that I know a fair amount of vocab: there are so many complicated grammar rules that I can’t string a sentence together without needing to be some kind of genius. Maybe if I study it for ten years. That’s what my teacher once said, anyway.
  • Read stuff. One of my 2010 resolutions is to read a book in Spanish: something I haven’t quite managed outside of class before, but I would have achieved this about ten years ago were I not prone to getting sidetracked and wandering off halfway through. Again, I’m hoping that a newfound minimalist lifestyle will help me out here. The book I’ve selected is Temporada de Caza Para el León Negro by Tryno Maldonado, which has the added bonus of being a slim volume and will therefore not take up too much space in my meagre luggage. I reckon I’ll take only a couple of other books with me, and use my bookmooch points and maybe this place when I get there.
  • Bake stuff. Yeah, I have this weird thing going on these days where half the time I’m a drunken train wreck and the other half I’m doing wholesome things like baking. I started on New Year’s Eve, because I had resolved to bake something before 2009 was over. Since then, I’ve made Anzac biscuits, cranberry slices, coconut-honey muffins, and most recently chocolate chip cookies. I am a goddamned culinary genius.
  • Travel. Of course. A trip to Warsaw is likely to happen at the end of April so I can attend Ste‘s gig (I also resolve to not get so hammered that I barely remember the show, as per last time). Also likely is a visit to Paris in May. Oh, and I already have a week in Ireland booked, and did I mention I’m visiting Brussels and Amsterdam on the way to Berlin? So. I’d also be interested in returning to Istanbul, though I haven’t looked into it yet. And I’m open to other options.

Would you believe that I mostly envision spending time by myself and being all quiet and domesticated? Yeah. I don’t know what’s up with that, but I suspect it’s just foreshadowing.